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E-mail Etiquette: 15 Essential Things You Need to Know for Efficient, Effective Email Communication

About 171 billion e-mails are sent each day, according to 2006 statistics from Radicati Group. This amounts to nearly 2 million e-mails sent every second, and although 70 percent to 72 percent of them are spam and viruses, about 1.1 billion of us send legitimate e-mails.


The Golden Rule applies to e-mail too: You should only send an e-mail message that you would like to receive.

But that doesn't mean we're always sending appropriate e-mails. In fact, because e-mail is so one-sided, your witty quip may be perceived as snotty by its recipient, your attempt at humor distasteful.

This is because while e-mail excels at speed and efficiency, it lacks personality. There are no facial cues, no innuendos, no clues given by tone of voice that let a reader in on the message's intended meaning.

The result can be disastrous: a professional e-mail that sounds too personal, a familiar one that's too stiff or, worst of all, a flamer.

Flaming is a term that describes emotionally charged, angry or otherwise insulting e-mails -- the types that you've perhaps wished you could retrieve after you've already hit "send."

In the 21st century, e-mail is essential. So, then, is learning the proper e-mail etiquette so that your e-mails get your message across, and nothing more.

  1. Proof your e-mail before hitting send. Is it polite? Spelled correctly? Offensive?

  2. Only send the e-mail to those who need it and are directly involved.

  3. Keep it short and simple. One subject per e-mail is best.

  4. Make subject lines count. Write "Meeting today at 11" instead of just "meeting."

Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home

If you use e-mail, you need Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home. It's a practical, witty and quick read that will prevent you from making serious e-mail blunders, and give you perfect e-mail etiquette that even your co-workers will rave about.

  1. Don't forward personal/confidential information. If you need to forward on an e-mail that contains confidential information, make sure you have the writer's permission to do so.

  2. Use the "inverted pyramid" as a writing guide, putting your most important statement first, then following with supporting details.

  3. Know when NOT to e-mail. Sometimes, a face-to-face meeting or a phone call really is necessary, such as when you're relaying complex or very important news (Best to tell mom you're pregnant in person, not via e-mail. Likewise with telling employees they're getting laid off or explaining an important new project.)

  4. Use proper formatting. People read e-mail differently than they read a piece of paper in that they only scan an e-mail. To make sure your point is heard, keep paragraphs short and include a blank line in between them.

  5. Avoid USING ALL CAPS! This makes it seem like you are screaming your message. If you want to emphasize a point, *asterisks* can be used around the phrase.

  6. Limit your use of the "high-priority" flag. If you use it too often, it won't have an impact when something really IS high priority.

  7. Use emoticons (those little smiley, or sad, faces) sparingly, and only with people who you are familiar with (and who are familiar with emoticons).

  8. Rather than including an entire original message in your response, <insert a snippet that you're responding to in brackets>.

  9. Avoid flaming e-mails. If you're angry, don't write an e-mail until you've cooled down.

  10. Resist getting caught up in back-and-forth e-mail arguments. Step away from the argument for a while, or make a phone call to try and clear matters up.

  11. For a more in-depth guide on e-mail etiquette, consult Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home. This is one that should be in everyone's top desk drawer!

Recommended Reading

E-mail Miscommunication: How to Make Sure the Tone & Message of Your E-mail Messages are Never Misunderstood

The World's #1 Internet Threat May Be Robbing Your Identity Right Now


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